Protests erupted across Spain and Greece this week, with demonstrators in both of the debt-hobbled countries expressing their growing displeasure with austerity reforms. The unrest comes just weeks after the European Central Bank announced that it would act as lender of last resort to eurozone nations facing rising borrowing costs, easing fears of sovereign defaults and calming financial markets. But now, with economic growth at a standstill and increasing numbers of Spaniards and Greeks facing impoverishment, the question has become whether these countries can survive the austerity cure, and if so, what it will take. “Much has been made of […]

Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although it has not become a campaign issue, ratification of the treaty will be a question facing the next U.S. presidential administration, with important implications for a wide range of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals. The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions, whether for military or other purposes, in any environment. As of today, 183 national governments out of 196 possible signatories have signed the CTBT, and 157 countries have ratified it. The treaty specifies, however, that it will only enter into force 180 days […]

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon earlier this month, where he addressed the conflict in Syria at a heavily attended mass and met with Lebanon’s political leaders. In an email interview, Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, discussed Vatican foreign policymaking. WPR: Who sets Vatican foreign policy and what are the principal elements driving policy? Samuel Gregg: The Holy See’s foreign policy is subject to the pope’s direction and that of the secretary of state, presently Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. In formal terms, it is carried out primarily by the Secretariat of State, specifically its Second Section, known […]

Fifteen years ago, the peace process in Northern Ireland was at a critical juncture. With the IRA having restored its cease-fire at the end of July 1997, Sinn Fein was judged to be in compliance with the so-called Mitchell Principles and admitted to the peace talks that would eventually produce the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (.pdf) in April 1998. However, Sinn Fein’s entry into the process prompted the exit of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, which refused to negotiate with what it considered to be a terrorist group. A decade and a half later, the DUP and Sinn Fein co-exist in […]

How to manage trade relations with China, with an eye toward achieving reciprocity, is the million-dollar question on both sides of the Atlantic. The question was on prominent display at the 15th European Union-China summit last Thursday, where the two economic giants once again agreed to avoid protectionism, at least on paper. Trade between China and the EU rose to $556 billion in 2011, but grievances on both sides continue to weigh heavily on the relationship. At the summit, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao complained pointedly about the EU arms embargo against China as well as Brussels’ refusal to grant China […]

This month, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy expressed his government’s intent to avoid a financial bailout through a plan based on limited assistance from the European Central Bank, higher taxes and further domestic restrictions on credit. Whether or not Rajoy is correct about Spain’s ability to forego a bailout, the new measures may be inadequate to recapitalize Spanish banks and speed the recovery of important market sectors. Even if Spain’s sovereign borrowing costs do not rise again, Rajoy’s plan means businesses will have reduced access to capital markets for some time to come. Coupled with investor reluctance to purchase Spanish […]

The European Commission opened an investigation into Gazprom earlier this month, charging that the Russian energy conglomerate had prevented the free flow of gas between European Union members and had improperly linked the price of gas to oil. In an email interview, Pami Aalto, Jean Monnet professor at the University of Tampere, and Kim Talus, professor of European law at the University of Eastern Finland, discussed the EU’s investigation into Gazprom. WPR: What is the background of the current EU antitrust investigation into Gazprom? Pami Aalto and Kim Talus: The current antitrust investigation ensues from a 2007 energy sector inquiry […]

As Turkey’s once-hailed approach to foreign policy flounders in the Middle East, the spirit of “zero problems” continues to consolidate gains in other neighboring areas, notably the Caucasus. Georgia, though lacking many of the national bonds that mortar Turkish ties with Azerbaijan, has become a particular beneficiary of Turkey’s Caucasus strategy. For Turkey, Georgia is a fundamental part of its regional energy strategy and an important buffer between it and historical rival Russia. For Georgia, Turkey is a trade partner, a window to the Euro-Atlantic and a powerful regional advocate. Over the past decade, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero […]

Despite its relatively small size, Azerbaijan has frequently been the focus of foreign attention since it gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is in large part due to Azerbaijan’s sizable energy resources and pivotal location, which provides the only viable pipeline route for Caspian Basin oil and gas to reach the West without passing through Russia or Iran. Azerbaijan’s leaders have tried to exploit these geopolitical assets to help manage the challenges presented by the country’s volatile neighborhood, which include a number of disputes over Caspian energy reserves, heavy interference by outside powers and the potential […]

The past year has witnessed a high-profile disagreement between Moscow and Washington over the civil war in Syria and the broader direction of political change in the Arab world. Some Russians have even revealed a degree of schadenfreude over the latest anti-U.S. violence in Libya, where Russian President Vladimir Putin likened last year’s NATO intervention to a medieval crusade. But though Washington and Moscow differ on rhetoric and tactics, when it comes to core U.S. interests in the Middle East, such as managing the rise of political Islam, constraining Iran’s nuclear program and ensuring the welfare of the state of […]

In the not-too-distant future, should a continent-spanning republic ever emerge in Europe, historians will probably point to Sept. 12, 2012, as one of the game-changing days in the historic march toward such a goal: The German Constitutional Court effectively accepted the European Stability Mechanism (ESM); the European Commission made public its far-reaching plans for a European banking union; European Commission President José Mario Barroso declared that “the EU must strive to become a federation of nations states” in his State of the Union speech before the European Parliament; and finally, Dutch voters strengthened the country’s pro-European center, while paring back […]

At last week’s Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, organized by the Center for Energy and Security Studies, some 200 people, including a number of prominent Russian and Western experts, gathered to discuss a wide range of nonproliferation issues. Given the statements of the Russian speakers at the conference, Moscow is laying down some tough, albeit often understandable, conditions for making further progress in nuclear arms control. Sergey Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister who keynoted the conference, stressed the importance of strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Ryabkov insisted that what he called the treaty’s three core principles — nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament […]

The global economy is currently undergoing a quiet transformation. While most of the world’s attention remains justifiably focused on the European Union’s minute-by-minute struggle to formulate a permanent solution to its unending debt crisis, other far-reaching economic forces are shifting beneath the surface. Increasingly, it seems as if the golden era of globalization that defined the last quarter of the 20th century is in danger, with the years prior to the 2008 economic crisis perhaps marking its high-water mark. Ours has become the era of perpetual global financial crisis, of sagging economic growth, of stubborn unemployment. As the world economy […]

Pacific Rim leaders met Sunday for the last day of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Vladivostok, Russia. As reported by the Associated Press, the 21 APEC members pledged “to fend off the deepening damage from the European crisis and revive flagging growth in the region by supporting open trade, reforming their economies and strengthening public finances.” Alan Oxley, chairman of the national Australian APEC Study Center at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and managing director of ITS Global, told Trend Lines that, with Russia “keen to showcase its new free trade credentials following its recent accession to […]

It is common wisdom that foreign policy does not decide U.S. presidential elections, and few issues inspire less enthusiasm these days than a Europe stuck in a currency crisis that it seems unable to fix. Europeans are also very familiar with the growing American belief that Europe no longer matters at all in the global arena. As a result, few were expecting any emphasis on Europe or the European Union as one of America’s most steadfast strategic partners in President Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the Democratic Party convention last week. Still, Obama’s only reference to Europe came as a […]

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